More strengthened in its power, putting on the table the threat of more nuclear weapons before the arrival of the new Democratic government in the United States, and with uncertainty about the future of the national economy. Thus has concluded the North Korean Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un, the eighth Congress of the Korean Workers’ Party, the meeting of the North Korean single party and that it should set the course of the country for the next five years.
A military orchestra sang the chords of La Internacional. The 4,500 delegates gathered at the Kim Il-sung House of Culture in central Pyongyang, the capital, rose to their feet. The Congress was closed. As a final message, a speech by Kim that reiterated what he had already expressed during the ten days of sessions: a call to strengthen “nuclear deterrence” and develop “the greatest military capacity.”
Congress, the first in five years and the second in four decades, was held just days before the next US president, Joe Biden, took office on the 20th, who will replace a Donald Trump who met with Kim three times. between 2018 and 2019 (in Singapore, Hanoi (Vietnam), and on the inter-Korean border), but that never made commitments to the North Korean leader towards the denuclearization of his country.
With his promises to reinforce its nuclear weapons, and to acquire new military technologies – he has mentioned among his plans the development of multi-headed missiles, but also quantum weapons, which not even the United States has formally incorporated into its arsenal – the leader The North Korean has moved the first chip in what promises to be a long game of political chess with the new administration in Washington. The invitation to dialogue is on the table: but if Biden’s team does not want to sit down to negotiate, time will run against the United States, and the North Korean weapons program will become more and more powerful.
His calculation is that if they increase the bet “the United States will have to accept it, or see how North Korea is acquiring better and better weapons,” says Professor Andrei Lankov, of Kookmin University in Seoul, in a videoconference organized by NK News. But any negotiator, he stresses, will have to be clear that the achievements will be limited: “The denuclearization of North Korea will never happen. No kind of pressure or promises will make North Korea give up ”on its nuclear weapons, and in the best of cases Pyongyang will offer guarantees that it will not resort to them, or impose a moratorium.
Kim’s statements have also aroused fears that North Korea may resume its weapons tests, after testing several short-range missiles last year despite announcing the suspension of launches in 2018. That step made it easier for the following year to start negotiations with South Korea first; and with the United States, later.
The North Korean leader has also dedicated part of his closing speech to the economy, the other big issue of the congress. “It is necessary to resolve the thorny issue of the economy quickly, to overcome the current difficulties we face, stabilize and improve the living conditions of the people,” he declared. Last week he had admitted that the last five-year plan had been a dismal failure, in which the set goals were not achieved.
There was, however, no indication that reforms were being considered to carry out an economy hit by years of some of the strictest international sanctions in the world, due to the closure of borders to protect the country from the covid-19 pandemic – which has paralyzed its foreign trade-, and by a series of natural disasters last year. Its formula is similar to the one that the system has always proposed: “prosperity through self-sufficiency”.
Despite the economic problems, or perhaps because of them, the congress gave the leader a boost of power. He appointed him secretary general of the party, a position held by his grandfather and founder of the regime, Kim Il-sung; and his father, Kim Jong-il. The gesture, although symbolic – no one doubts that young Kim controls all power in his country, regardless of his titles – is not without importance: it includes him on the same level as his predecessors, although at the cost of dispossessing his father from the title of “eternal secretary general” which had been awarded to him at his death.
More ambiguous is the role of his sister and right-hand man, Kim Yo-jong, who, despite what experts anticipated, has not been promoted to the Politburo, not even as an alternate member. Although in no case does he seem to have lost influence because at all times he appeared in the photographs released by the North Korean official media with his brother.
And, at the close of congress, it also issued a harsh statement against South Korea, in a sign that the influence of the leader’s younger sister has not disappeared. Referring to Seoul’s interest in knowing if the military parade had been held with which – it was expected – the closing of the congress would be held, Kim Yo-jong assured: “We only held a military parade in the capital, not military exercises against anyone , no launch … the people of the south are really a very strange group, difficult to understand ”.